Saturday, January 31, 2009

Did Daschle Do Any Work for Intermedia?

It appears that Tom Daschle didn't pay more than $100,000 in taxes over the last few years. That means that Daschle had about $300,000 in extra income beyond what he reported.

Nice work if you can get it.

But that's the question in my mind. Did Daschle do any work for the income on which he didn't pay any taxes?

Here's the key passage in the New York Times.

The car and driver were provided by Leo Hindery Jr., a media and telecommunications executive who had been chairman of YES, the New York Yankees regional sports network. In 2005, Mr. Hindery founded a private equity firm known as InterMedia Advisors. Mr. Daschle was chairman of InterMedia’s advisory board.

In a financial disclosure statement filed this month with the Office of Government Ethics, Mr. Daschle reported that he had received large amounts of income from InterMedia, including more than $2 million in consulting fees and $182,520 in the form of “company-provided transportation.”

Given that Leo Hindery is also a big Democratic fundraiser, there's reason to ask what kinds of work Tom Daschle did as "chairman of Intermedia's Advisory Board" and how he earned his "$2 million in consulting fees" and use a company car and driver for mostly personal purposes.

Obviously, there are consultants who do research and give expert advice to "private equity firms" and help those companies increase their profits (at least when the economy isn't collapsing).

But "consulting" is also a sufficiently nebulous term that it could describe other kinds of arrangements as well.

In Daschle's case, you have to wonder if "consulting" is an arrangement where the CEO keeps a political heavyweight on a huge retainer to stroke the CEO's ego, ensure that the heavyweight makes some "real money," or gain benefits for the CEO when the heavyweight gets back into government.

Of course, it could be all of the above.

This isn't like the Timothy Geithner case. With Geithner, it was just a matter of screwing up his tax returns. The Senate should be looking carefully at the sources of Tom Daschle's income as well as his taxes.

And the Senate should not confirm Daschle if it turns out that Daschle's arrangement with Intermedia was some sort of sweetheart deal. That kind of arrangement is inherently corrupt and should be inherently disqualifying.

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